Russell Westbrook Fantasy: Should You Draft the Injured Thunder PG?
Russell Westbrook underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in mid-September, and was scheduled for re-evaluation on October 10.
As of Thursday, the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard still hasn’t been cleared to practice, per ESPN’s Royce Young.
Update on Russell Westbrook: He is still not cleared for full practice and is said to be progressing on schedule. Participating in some “controlled contact” portions of practice. Billy Donovan wouldn’t say whether or not Westbrook is expected to be available opening night.
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) October 11, 2018
With Westbrook in doubt for the Thunder’s season opener, at what point in the draft should you draft him to your fantasy team?
The Case for Drafting Russell Westbrook
Triple-doubles. Need I say more? The point guard averaged one in each of the past two seasons, coming away with 1.6 steals per game in 2016-17 and 1.8 per contest last season.
Westbrook also has a history of returning from knee surgery ahead of schedule. He underwent surgery on his right knee on October 1, 2013 — his second surgery on the knee in six months — and was expected to miss the first four-to-six weeks of the season.
The point guard missed only two games before debuting on November 3.
The Case Against Drafting Russell Westbrook
However, later that season, Westbrook required another arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He returned two months later, but played just 46 games on the year.
In September 2017, Westbrook underwent a platelet rich plasma injection in one of his knees, though there’s some debate as to which one — Young reported it was his right, but the NBA’s global website said it was his left.
Considering Westbrook’s age (he turns 30 in November) and workload (he has the second-highest usage percentage of all time, and has finished in the top six in the league in usage in each of the last seven seasons), the point guard’s history of knee surgeries should concern anyone drafting him.
In Yahoo fantasy leagues, Westbrook is ninth in both average draft slot in snake drafts, at 9.3, and average cost in auction drafts, at $57.5.
In both cases, he trails James Harden (1.7; $75.1), Anthony Davis (2.2; $77.4), Giannis Antetokounmpo (3.4; $74.2), Stephen Curry (5.1; $70), LeBron James (5.2; $68.4), Karl-Anthony Towns (5.7; $69), Kevin Durant (5.9; $69.5), and Nikola Jokic (8.9; $59.3).
The draft slot’s fine, but if you’re looking for a surer thing, you should feel comfortable drafting the always durable Damian Lillard ahead of him. The Portland Trail Blazers point guard is going right behind Westbrook in drafts this year (10.2; $54.4), is younger by almost two years, and has missed just 24 regular season games in a six-year career.
Kawhi Leonard (12.2; $53.1) slots in behind Lillard. He sat out all but nine games last season, but appears to be back to full health. He’s played three preseason games, and on a per-minute basis he’s produced like his 2016-17 self. With more upside to offer, you can feel great about taking Leonard ahead of Westbrook, especially if your league tracks turnovers.